In 1969, Vietnam veteran Ron Ridenhour wrote a letter to Congress and the Pentagon describing the horrif¬
ic events at My Lai — the infamous massacre of the Vietnam War—bringing the scandal to the attention of
the American public and the world. A copy of that letter is in this program. Ridenhour later became a respect¬
ed investigative journalist, winning the George Polk Award for Investigative Journalism in 1987 for a yearlong
investigation of a New Orleans tax scandal. He died suddenly in 1998 at the age of 52. At the time of his death,
he was working on a piece for the London Review of Books, had co-produced a story on militias for NBC’s
Dateline, and had just delivered a series of lectures commemorating the 30th anniversary of My Lai.
TRIBUTES TO RON RIDENHOUR
Without then being a journalist, he did what the anointed, professional journalists were failing to do: He told
the truth about what he heard and saw in Vietnam. He was a brave man, therefore a free man. Maybe thats
why his company was so palpably refreshing. Thoreau said that a thing done well is done forever. Rons act of
exposing the massacre at My Lai is a light that will never die out in the world. Its meaning and importance are
increasing steadily as time passes. What wonderful thing is it that makes one person step forward in the midst
of horror to do what must be done? We ll never know, but we do know that Ron Ridenhour had it.
Jonathan Schell is the author of many books including The Village of Ben Sue (1967), and
The Military Half (1968), which describe the destruction of Quang Ngai province by the US military.
It is risky to meet those who have acted heroically, or people whose writing you really like, because they remain
heroes and great writers but sometimes you don’t like them. It was the opposite with Ron. He surprised me,
he delighted me. He was funny and passionate, serious about justice, skeptical about achieving it ...We did
not know each other very well; we knew everything about each other we needed to know.
Marilyn Young is a professor of Asian history at NYU and the author of
The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1990, one of the best histories of the war,
as well as many other books.
I have a small pantheon of heroes, mostly people like John Lewis and Bill Minor, the great Mississippi jour¬
nalist. Ron Ridenhour was one of them, too. We met late in our lives at a conference on My Lai in New
Orleans. Meeting him, I thought of Bobby Kennedy’s favorite quote from Emerson: “If one good man plants
himself upon his convictions, the whole world will come round.” So I quoted it — and turned to him and said,
“You are that one good man.” He was an American original, an absolutely authentic man in an age that is
increasingly inauthentic. His story encompassed the worst and finally the best of America. Because he was so
wonderfully artless, his telling of it was uniquely powerful — it was like hearing the purest voice of the
American conscience. There is nothing I cherish and value more than the nobility of ordinary people, and he
was a sterling example of it.
David Halberstam is a journalist and author of 19 books — including most recently The Teammates
and Firehouse — who won a Pulitzer Prize for his eyewitness accounts of the Vietnam War.
TRIBUTES TO RON RIDENHOUR
Ron walked point for us in many ways, taking the first heat, breaking the trail. He had a lot left to accomplish.
We were sitting around in New York with Marilyn Young, Jonathan Schell and Grace Paley a few years ago,
and Ron got started telling this distinguished group about a book project that he hoped to turn back to soon,
a book about some massacres of black soldiers during WWII who were killed by the US Army for standing up
for their rights as human beings. It was to be called Roster of the Dead , for Ron had a list of the many hundreds
of men who had been massacred in Mississippi and in Arizona in 1943 and whose deaths had been covered
up. He believed in many ways it nurtured the roots of the civil rights movement, a crucial first skirmish that,
like so much in Ron Ridenhour’s American History textbook, had been repressed, deleted from American con¬
sciousness and the American conscience. Ron spends a lot of time laying out his story, and when he’s finished,
Grace Paley, all five feet of her, Lower East Side Manhattanite and tough as nails, says, like a voice through
parted clouds: “Ya’ know, ya have a responsibility to finish that book.” I believe it would have been Ron’s next
extraordinary brush with history.
Randy Fertel is president of The Fertel Foundation and founder of the Ron Ridenhour Awards.
Ron was someone who mattered to me, one of my heroes, someone I thought about often, especially when¬
ever the world seemed too full of cowards and knaves and smiling, lying bastards. He was one of the good guys.
I had shown Experiencing the Darkness, the 1994 oral history video about My Lai, to a group of students at the
University of Illinois, using Ron and Hugh Thompson as proof that right choices are always possible, even in
the midst of a world gone horribly wrong. ... Imagine what would and would not have happened had he not
responded as he did. He changed history, and very much to his credit and honor. Moreover, his courage in pur¬
suing the truth proved to be the measure of the man, not just a passing moment. He was an honorable man,
a decent man, and God knows there are few enough of those around. The world is better off for his having
been in it, and a lonelier place now that he’s gone.
W.D. Ehrhart is the author of Perkaisie/Vietnam and other memoirs, and the editor of
Carrying the Darkness, a volume of poetry by Vietnam veterans. He lives in Philadelphia.
What you have to understand
About the government is that
The motherfuckers lie.
That’s the first thing.
About the big things.
About just about any goddamn thing
You can think of when it serves their purpose.
Don't get me wrong.
You find honest people
In the strangest places.
So you never stop looking.
But skepticism of a broad and deep range
of government claims is a good thing.
THE RON RIDENHOUR AWARDS
THE RON RIDENHOUR AWARDS seek to discover, recognize and encourage those who persevere in acts
of truth-telling that protect the public interest, advance or promote social justice, or illuminate a more just
vision of society. These awards memorialize the spirit of fearless truth-telling that one time whistleblower and
lifetime investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his extraordinary life and career.
The Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling is awarded to a citizen, corporate or government whistleblower,
investigative journalist or an organization for bringing a specific issue of social importance to the public’s atten¬
tion. The Ron Ridenhour Book Prize honors the outstanding work of social significance from the prior
publishing year. The prize also recognizes investigative and reportorial distinction. The Ron Ridenhour Courage
Award is given to an individual in recognition of his or her courageous and life-long defense of the public inter¬
est and passionate commitment to social justice. Each of the three annual awards carries a $10,000 stipend.
The Fertel Foundation
The Nation Institute
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Fund for Constitutional Government
Government Accountability Project
Project on Government Oversight
Dr. Helen Caldicott
For information on the Ron Ridenhour Awards,
visit www.ridenhour.org or www.nationinstitute.org
«_A Ay U
/K c-CR ^
THE FERTEL FOUNDATION & THE NATION INSTITUTE
THE RON RIDENHOUR AWARDS
fostering the spirit of courage and truth
The Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling
The Ron Ridenhour Book Prize
The Ro n Ridenhour Courage Award
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
The National Press Club
“Whistleblowers have become the new heroes, leadership without arrogance,
a bridge between power and humanity. ”
Anna Quindlen wrote those words in Newsweek about eighteen months ago. They have become more true than
ever, as we’ve seen clearly demonstrated in the past few weeks. Because of the three people we honor today,
because of Ron Ridenhour, and because of hundreds and even thousands of others like them who are willing
to take a risk for a larger good, we have access to the world’s most valuable currency— the truth.
To recognize those people, to reward their courage, and to encourage others who follow in their footsteps, the
Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute established the Ron Ridenhour Awards.
Like Ron Ridenhour (and Daniel Ellsberg), Ambassador Joseph Wilson first ably served his country and then
blew the whistle on its misdeeds. Ambassador Wilson wrote in his New York Times piece that “American for¬
eign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. ” Flis courageous act came at a high personal cost, when
this career diplomat and his wife were relentlessly — even dangerously—attacked by the conservative press.
However, in the spirit of Ron Ridenhour and My Lai, the benefits of his action to foreign policy and to our
democracy were great. Ambassador Wilson seems not to have lost his cool or his sense of humor during a dif¬
ficult time. Ron would have admired that.
In Emmas War , Deborah Scroggins helps us understand a brutal civil war that went on for a decade or more,
largely beneath our radar. Scroggins focuses on Emma McCune, a British aid worker who, like Graham
Greene’s eponymous hero in The Quiet American , had “lovely motives for all the trouble [s]he caused.”
Scroggins also connects the elements at the heart of the civil war with the very issues that are shaking the foun¬
dations of the West right now. We seem certain that, to succeed, the Third World just needs to embrace our
liberal education and liberal democracy. Scroggins’s book helps us understand how our certainty and self-sat¬
isfaction fuel the concern and the ire of the fundamentalist world.
Ron Ridenhour’s revelation of My Lai shined a bright light on the way the American military sometimes func¬
tions in the field when the enemy is ambiguous and the field of battle especially treacherous. Daniel Ellsberg
knew a lot about that too. But his revelation of the Pentagon Papers shined a light as never before on how the
Defense Department and the White House functioned back in Washington, when they knew from the first
that the war was both unpopular and unwinnable. These are lessons we are still learning.
Whistleblowing and truth-telling are not so much acts as callings. When our fellow citizens have the courage
to speak, we must have the wisdom to listen — and then to offer our gratitude.
President, Fertel Foundation
Welcome and Introductory Remarks
President, The Nation Institute
Ron Ridenhour, Whistleblower and Investigative Journalist
President, The Fertel Foundation
The Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling
Presenter: Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation
Recipient: Ambassador Joseph Wilson
Former US diplomat in Iraq and
former Ambassador to Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe
The Ron Ridenhour Book Prize
Presenter: Professor Albert May
Director, School of Media and Public Affairs
George Washington University
Recipient: Deborah Scroggins
Author, Emma’s War: An Aid Worker, Radical Islam,
and the Politics of Oil — A True Story of Love and Death in the Sudan
The Ron Ridenhour Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement
Presenter: Gloria Emerson, Author
Recipient: Dr. Daniel Ellsberg,
Author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
AMBASSADOR JOSEPH WILSON
The Ron Ridenhour Prize For Truth-Telling
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a specialist in sub-Saharan Africa as well as the Middle East, is honored for going
public with the CIA’s February 2002 request that he investigate whether Iraq was seeking uranium from
sources in Africa and his finding that such a scenario was highly unlikely — months before President Bush
repeated the allegation in his 2003 State of the Union address. Wilson’s revelation raised questions about the
Bush Administration’s truthfulness, and undermined its claim that it had ample evidence to justify an invasion
of Iraq. One week later, conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote that Administration officials told him
Wilson’s wife was a CIA agent, a serious allegation that either blows her cover or inaccurately labels her.
Wilson was a member of the US Diplomatic Service from 1976 until 1998. Wilson served as special assistant
to the President and senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council from June 1997 until
July 1998. In that capacity he was responsible for the coordination of US policy to the forty-eight countries of
sub-Saharan Africa. He was one of the principal architects of President Clinton’s historic trip to Africa in
Wilson was the political advisor to the commander in chief of United States Armed Forces, Europe, 1995 -
1997. He served as the US Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and to the Democratic Republic of Sao
Tome and Principe from 1992 to 1995. From 1988 to 1991, Ambassador Wilson served in Baghdad, Iraq, as
deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy. During “Desert Shield” he was the acting ambassador and was
responsible for the negotiations that resulted in the release of several hundred American hostages. He was the
last official American to meet with Saddam Hussein before the launching of “Desert Storm.”
Wilson was raised in California and graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1972. He
is a graduate of the Senior Seminar (1992), the most advanced International Affairs training offered by the US
government. He holds the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State
Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, the University of California, Santa Barbara, Distinguished Alumnus
Award and the American Foreign Service Association William R. Rivkin Award. Additionally, he has been dec¬
orated as a commander in the Order of the Equatorial Star by the government of Gabon and as an admiral in
the El Paso Navy by the El Paso county commissioners.
Ambassador Wilson is CEO of JCWilson International Ventures, Corp., a firm specializing in strategic man¬
agement and international business development. He is married and has two sons and two daughters.
The Ron Ridenhour Book Prize
Deborah Scroggins is author of Emmas War: An Aid Worker, Radical Islam, and the Politics of Oil-A True Story
of Love and Death in the Sudan (Pantheon, 2002). It is both the riveting story of British aid worker Emma
McCune and Riek Machar, the local warlord she marries, and a revealing look at the Sudan: a world where
international aid often fuels armies instead of the starving, and where the Islamic government is locked in bat¬
tle with the pagans and Christians over religion, oil and slaves. Emma’s War is being produced as a film star¬
ring Nicole Kidman.
While covering Sudan as a young journalist, Scroggins fell in love with the country and its people, despite the
country’s poverty, slavery and ongoing civil war. On one of her many trips to the war-torn area in the early
1990s, she encountered Emma McCune, a glamorous khawaja (white) aid worker from the UK. Against all
expectation, Emma met and married Riek Machar — a local warlord who already had a Sudanese wife. For
Scroggins, Emma personified the extremes of the Western adventure in the Sudan, which started in the early
1800s: the naive romanticism, the terrible price and, ultimately, the love, however blind and misguided.
Scroggins’s proximity to not only the relationship between Riek and Emma (who was killed in a car accident
in 1993), but also to Sudan and Africa’s longest running civil war, gives Emma’s War its passion and brutal hon¬
esty. As Scroggins writes, she was one of many Americans and Europeans who journeyed to Sudan “dreaming
they might help and came back numb with disillusionment, but forever marked.”
Scroggins lives in Atlanta, where she was born and raised. She left Atlanta at 16 for college; she earned her mas¬
ter’s degree at Columbia University and had lived overseas for a few years by the time she was 24. While work¬
ing at the United Nations Association in New York, she was assigned to a project examining famine in Sudan.
Soon the Atlanta Journal-Constitution offered her a job reporting on the ravaged country. For several years, she
worked for the paper, covering Sudan and Somalia. In 1994, the Journal-Constitution reassigned her to a desk
job, and she returned to Atlanta where she raised two daughters with her husband. Now a freelance writer, she
has won several national journalism awards, including Overseas Press Club Awards and the Robert F. Kennedy
DR. DANIEL ELLSBERG
The Ron Ridenhour Courage Award
Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, a lecturer, writer and activist, is most well-known for leaking a 7,000-page document
detailing how the Vietnam War was planned, which had been prepared for Pentagon internal use. He gave it
to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and long excerpts ran in the New York Times in 1971. The
Washington Post and seventeen other papers also ran excerpts. The publication of the Pentagon Papers, as they
came to be called, was an explosive event illustrating to the public how uncertain US prospects of winning the
war in Vietnam had always been, despite the assurances of public figures.
Ellsberg was born in Detroit in 1931. After graduating summa cum laude from Harvard in 1952 with a BA
in economics, he studied for a year at King’s College, Cambridge University, on a Woodrow Wilson
Fellowship. He served in the Marine Corps and then was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows, Harvard
University. He earned his PhD in economics at Harvard in 1962; the dissertation was published in 2001.
In 1959, he became a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, and consultant to the Department of
Defense and the White House, specializing in problems of the command and control of nuclear weapons,
nuclear war plans and crisis decision-making. He joined the Defense Department in 1964 as special assistant
to assistant secretary of defense (International Security Affairs) John McNaughton, working on Vietnam. He
transferred to the State Department in 1965 to serve two years at the US Embassy in Saigon, evaluating paci¬
fication on the frontlines.
On his return to the RAND Corporation in 1967, he worked on the top secret McNamara study of US deci¬
sion-making in Vietnam between 1945 and 1968, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In
1969, he photocopied and leaked the study. His trial, on twelve felony counts posing a possible sentence of 115
years in prison, was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, which led to the
convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.
In 2002 Ellsberg published Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.